Facial Recognition Database Used By FBI Is Out of Control, House Committee Hears

The House oversight committee claims the FBI's facial recognition database is out of control, noting that "no federal law controls this technology" and "no court decision limits it." At last week's House oversight committee hearing, politicians and privacy campaigners presented several "damning facts" about the databases. "About 80% of photos in the FBI's network are non-criminal entries, including pictures from driver's licenses and passports," reports The Guardian. "The algorithms used to identify matches are inaccurate about 15% of the time, and are most likely to misidentify black people than white people." From the report: "Facial recognition technology is a powerful tool law enforcement can use to protect people, their property, our borders, and our nation," said the committee chair, Jason Chaffetz, adding that in the private sector it can be used to protect financial transactions and prevent fraud or identity theft. "But it can also be used by bad actors to harass or stalk individuals. It can be used in a way that chills free speech and free association by targeting people attending certain political meetings, protests, churches, or other types of places in the public." Furthermore, the rise of real-time face recognition technology that allows surveillance and body cameras to scan the faces of people walking down the street was, according to Chaffetz, "most concerning." "For those reasons and others, we must conduct proper oversight of this emerging technology," he said.

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Ikea gets into smart lighting with massive new range coming in April

Of all the home automation products out there, smart lighting is the one that often makes the most sense. After all, who hasn’t wished they could turn off their house’s lights from bed last thing at night or have them turn on automatically when they come home? 

Now one of the leading suppliers of LED light bulbs, Ikea, is getting into smart lighting in a big way. 

The home furniture company is releasing a number of smart LED bulbs which you’ll be able to install into your existing light fixtures and control either with an optional remote or an app on your phone. 

Like Philips Hue, the kit requires a wireless gateway if you want to control the system using the app. The Trådfri app will allow you to group bulbs into groups, and can be used to put the bulbs on timers to have them turn on and off at specific times. 

From warm yellows to cold blues

Using the system you’ll be able to cycle through various brightnesses and warmths of lighting from a dim yellow hue (better for late at night) to a bright cold blue (better for work environments and mornings), although there aren’t any of the color-changing options as seen in the more premium Philips Hue bulbs. 

Ikea is also using its furniture-building heritage to great effect by providing ‘light doors’ that can be installed directly into existing cabinets. Floor and ceiling mountable lights are also available. 

There are four main packages of bulbs at launch. At the cheapest (£15) end you get a single light bulb and a magnetic remote that can scroll through two different light settings. For £25 you get a single bulb and a motion detector. Springing for the £29 kit replaces this motion detector with a more advanced remote that can change both the warmth and brightness of the light. 

You’ll have to spend a full £69 if you want to get the gateway that allows you to control your home lighting with an app. This kit will also get you two light bulbs and the more advanced remote outlined above. 

From this initial announcement it looks like Ikea has covered most of the bases of what you would need for a smart lighting system, although it’s unfortunate that you have to get the more expensive kit to be able to control the lights with your phone. 

We’ll also be interested to see how well the system scales up when you start adding more Ikea bulbs. 

We can’t wait to get our hands on the lighting kit for ourselves, which Ikea states will be available starting from this April. 


Prominent Drupal, PHP Developer Kicked From the Drupal Project Over Unconventional Sex Life

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: Last week the Drupal community erupted in anger after its leader, Dries Buytaert, asked Larry Garfield, a prominent Drupal contributor and long-time member of the Drupal and PHP communities, "to leave the Drupal project." Buytaert claims he did this "because it came to my attention that he holds views that are in opposition with the values of the Drupal project." A huge furor has erupted in response -- not least because the reason clearly has much to do with Garfield's unconventional sex life. [Garfield is into BDSM, and is a member of the Gorean community, "a community who are interested in, and/or participate in, elaborate sexual subjugation fantasies, in which men are inherently superior to women."] Buytaert made his post (which is now offline) in response after Larry went public, outing himself to public opinion. Buytaert retorted (excerpt available via TechCrunch): "when a highly-visible community member's private views become public, controversial, and disruptive for the project, I must consider the impact [...] all people are created equally. [sic] I cannot in good faith support someone who actively promotes a philosophy that is contrary to this [...] any association with Larry's belief system is inconsistent with our project's goals [...] I recused myself from the Drupal Association's decision [to dismiss Garfield from his conference role] [...] Many have rightfully stated that I haven't made a clear case for the decision [...] I did not make the decision based on the information or beliefs conveyed in Larry's blog post." TechCrunch columnist Jon Evans goes on to "unpack" the questions that naturally arise from these "Code of Conduct conflicts."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


TechCrunch decides: The best and worst emoji of Unicode 10.0

 The always reliable Emojipedia (they have one job and they do it well (actually it’s a complex beat)) has posted the final list of emoji that will be included in the Unicode 10.0 release this June. There’s a bunch of great stuff in here if you like fantasy creatures and inclusion. But there are a couple clunkers, too. Let’s look at the best and worst of today’s emoji crop. Read More


Despite what Mylan said, its price hikes hit patients’ wallets hard

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Joe Raedle)

While facing intense outrage for repeatedly jacking up the price of their life-saving epinephrine auto-injectors, Mylan continually argued that patients were shielded from the soaring list price—thanks to insurance coverage, discounts, and rebates. But a new study looking into insurance claims casts doubt on that defense.

Between 2007 and 2014, the average out-of-pocket spending per insured EpiPen-user jumped 123 percent. During that time, Mylan raised the list price of EpiPens from around $50 per pen to a whopping $609 per two-pack. In 2007, the year Mylan obtained the rights to EpiPen, the average patient spent around $33.8 out-of-pocket for a two-pack. By 2014, the average spending rose to $75.5 per two-pack, according to the new analysis published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The figures don’t square neatly with Mylan’s assurances. The company repeatedly claimed that most most patients weren’t significantly affected by the price hikes and pay only $50 out-of-pocket or less. Reuters reports that Mylan even claimed that about 90 percent of patients paid that little.

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